@FastMoneyLabs’ HR Derby Preview & Picks

All-Star Weekend kicks off with the Home-Run Derby in LA tonight. I love betting this event. Here’s how I’m approaching it in 2022:

Dodger Stadium: Slugger's Paradise?

Is Dodger Stadium a hitter-friendly ballpark?

Short answer is YES. Dodger Stadium boosts home run potential by roughly +25%, per MLB Statcast. That’s the 3rd highest mark of any major league ballpark in the last 3 seasons.

According to BallParkPal.com, this reflects the benefits of shallow Center Field Fences at Dodger Stadium (2nd shortest in MLB) and favorable climate (wind blows out to Center 61% of the time).

Which hitter should benefit most?

To answer this question, I reviewed “Expected Home Runs by Park” data published on BaseballSavant.com. This dataset takes every batted ball from Major League games and estimates whether it would have cleared the fence at all 30 MLB parks. Here are the results framed for Dodger Stadium:

$FML

The ‘Actual HRs’ column shows what it implies – the actual number of HRs smacked over the fence by each player since 2018 (including playoffs). The ‘Park-Adjusted Home Runs’ column shows how many of those home runs would’ve cleared the fence at Dodger Stadium, factoring in differences in wall height, fence distance and other environmental effects.

Taking these stats at face value – the table highlights a strong edge for Juan Soto (+12.2%) and Ronald Acuna Jr. (+12.07%) – at least from a ballpark perspective – while Jose Ramirez (+5.22%) and Julio Rodriguez (+6.25%) stand to benefit least. Though, it’s worth noting the supporting data set on Julio Rodriguez is particularly small (i.e., not large enough to draw meaningful conclusions).

Round 1

Here’s a breakdown of Round 1 matchups and odds at time of writing (via FanDuel Sportsbook):

  • Alonso (-200) vs. Acuna Jr. (+165)
  • Schwarber (-390) vs. Pujols (+320)
  • Rodriguez (-170) vs. Corey Seager (+140)
  • Soto (-175) vs. Ramirez (+145)

Looking at pricing, I feel oddsmakers nailed 3 of the 4 favorites with 1 glaring exception Corey Seager should not be an underdog vs. Julio Rodriguez.

I get it – Julio’s a rookie sensation. Everybody wants action on him, and oddsmakers know it. My problem with Rodriguez is less about his talent (which is through the roof) and more about what I view as a brutal Round 1 matchup for him vs. Corey Seager.

Seager’s a savvy, 28-year-old veteran with HR derby experience – something I value when picking winners in this thing. If anyone knows how to capitalize on the perks of Dodger Stadium – it’s Corey Seager. He played his first 7 seasons there and is a fan favorite. He’s yet to return since signing with Texas. It will surely be an emotional night for him tonight, but hopefully in a positive way. I think he’ll be met with a warm reception and should be motivated to put on a show. Also supporting a pick on Seager to advance is the fact he failed to get past Round 1 in his last home run derby (2016). He hit fine that night (15 HRs) just not good enough, which should motivate him to clear the hump tonight.

For what it’s worth, my Expected Home Runs analysis in the prior section also highlights value on Seager over Rodriguez in Round 1.

There’s a chance Julio will make me look very silly with this pick. He certainly has the most upside of the bunch as a young rookie – but it’s a risk I’m willing to take vs. a savvy veteran like Seager.

Round 1 Pick: Corey Seager to beat Julio Rodriguez (+140) via FanDuel

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Longest Home Run Pick

We could really go down a Rabbit Hole in this prop market. Let’s not do that. Instead, I’ll highlight one I really like: Juan Soto’s longest Home Run over 470.5 feet (-110) (available at DraftKings at time of writing).

Last year, Soto launched a 520-foot missile out of the park – smashing a Statcast-era record – and you’re telling me we can bet him to hit one 471+ feet tonight – nearly 50 feet shorter than last year – at odds that imply nearly 50% probability? Say less and take my money.

If you’re not convinced yet – you should know that Soto is the hottest commodity in the trade market right now. He just turned down a historic, $440MM extension with the Nationals. Now the rumor mills are swirling. What better way to stir the pot than by smashing another 520+ foot bomb on national TV?

Last, but not least, I really like this quote my buddy @MajorProps found and posted to Twitter today:

$FML

Some players take these events more seriously than others. It’s not always easy to tell who’s in which camp, but for Soto – this quote cements it. Dude wants to put on a show tonight, and that’s why we’re betting him to smash a 471+ foot bomb. Absolutely love this play.

It’s also worth noting that Soto has an easier Round 1 matchup vs. Jose Ramirez. Ramirez is no slouch, but he ranks near the bottom of the field in terms of Ballpark edge at Dodger Stadium (see section #2 above). If Soto can get past him, it boosts his chances at hitting a 471+ foot dinger. Said differently, getting to Round 2+ would buy him extra time and swings needed to cash this prop for us. If he doesn’t cash Round 1, it gives us a fun prop to root for down the stretch.

Longest Home Run Pick: Juan Soto over 470.5 feet (-110) via DraftKings

Derby Winner

I really wanted to pick an underdog here. That’s because Pete Alonso is going for his 3rd straight derby win – a 3-Pete, of sorts – and who wants that?

At the same time – I like winning money. If you’re in that camp, too, I suggest backing the favorite. That’s because if anyone truly cares about winning this thing – it’s the reigning back-to-back champ, Pete Alonso. He’s on record saying this event really matters to him, whereas most other guys view it as entertainment. That’s what sets them apart and makes Alonso the rightful favorite.

It sounds like a joke, but I would not be surprised if Alonso was up late taking Batting Practice and watching film study last night while opponents were out late in downtown LA partying. Alonso does not take the derby lightly. Others do. And for that reason, I need all the action I can get on the 3-Pete tonight.

The Pick: Pete Alonso to win the HR Derby (+200) via DraftKings

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Summary of Picks

Here’s a summary of lines and prices I locked in for the 3 props highlighted in this column:

  • Corey Seager to win Round 1 vs. Julio Rodriguez (+140) (FanDuel)
  • Juan Soto Longest HR over 470.5 Feet (-110) (DraftKings)
  • Pete Alonso to win the Derby (+200) (DraftKings)

Bet responsibly guys and best of luck tonight!

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